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Positive reinforcement from physician can help glaucoma patients remember to take medication

Almost half of all glaucoma patients stop taking the eye drops essential to preventing loss of eyesight. A study published in Health Education Research on September 2 shows that achieving better adherence to medication could be as simple as ophthalmologists saying, “Keep up the good work.”

Researchers at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research studied communication between ophthalmologists and their patients with glaucoma about taking their medications.  The researchers gave providers a framework based on supports and resources including individualized assessment, collaborative goal setting and skills enhancement and then studied how they interacted with patients. Providers who gave their patients positive messages saw better adherence in taking medication.

The project was led by Betsy Sleath, Ph.D., Director of the Child and Adolescent Health Program at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research and George H. Cocolas Distinguished Professor and chair of the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. The study was funded by the National Eye Institute and followed 14 physicians and 279 patients over an 8-month period in the first longitudinal study to follow ophthalmologists and glaucoma patients for two visits.

The study found that when physicians provided positive reinforcement at either visit, patients were 3.35 times as likely to take their medications as when they didn’t receive any positive messages (95% CI, 1.69, 6.71).  Interestingly, patients were actually less likely to take their medication if they engaged in collaborative goal setting with their physician (CI 0.54, 95% confidence interval 0.29, 0.98).

In addition, the researchers measured intraocular pressure, an indicator of whether medication is being taken regularly and on time. They found that if the ophthalmologist discussed intraocular pressure with their patients, the patients were more likely to take their medication on time.

To read the full article, please go here.